A Day in the Life of a Public Radio Intern: WCLK

noncomMUSIC AllianceCommunity, Jazz, Preservation, Testimonial

Photo credit: David Linton/WCLK.

The historic Atlanta jazz station strives to educate and train new talent through its internship program with Clark Atlanta University and one student intern is here to share her firsthand experience.

Celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, Atlanta’s 91.9 WCLK, a public radio jazz station, is one of the oldest historically Black college and university (HBCU) owned radio stations in the country. With its dedication to keeping jazz at the forefront, WCLK stands out as a true champion of the genre. Part of what keeps the station going is its commitment to nurturing young talent. The station is owned by Clark Atlanta University, so while the station staff is run by its own team, it regularly works with a number of student interns. One intern this year is Alanna Hadley, a freshman at the university.

At WCLK, interns like Alanna are given the opportunity to work in every department, gaining valuable experience and honing their skills. David Linton, WCLK’s program director, believes in providing interns with a comprehensive learning experience. “Our model is that if a student comes through WCLK, when they leave, they are job ready for an opportunity at another broadcast facility,” he explains. “In the process of serving the public, we’re also teaching new generations of broadcasters how to do that.”

Alanna arrived at WCLK with a love of radio and experience on-air, which Linton says really showed through when “she came in with such energy and eagerness to learn.” She and fellow interns help inject a fresh perspective into the station. As WCLK continues to make its mark, it remains a beacon of opportunity for aspiring broadcasters and a testament to the power of mentorship and hands-on learning. We’ll let Alanna share how she fits into that mission:

No day at 91.9 WCLK looks the same. One day, the station will host a membership drive cultivating donations, and on another day, I am assisting on-air talent record their shows and prepping special guests for interviews. It often reminds me of when I first came to campus. I was happily overwhelmed with the different organizations and opportunities offered here at Clark Atlanta University. The moment I stepped into the Mass Media Arts building for the first time – I was intrigued by the flyers for school productions, entertainment internship opportunities, and the abundance of clubs. The variety of opportunities being offered to people who look like me, and with similar aspirations as me, reminded me of the safety I felt in high school– to be myself and be creative. I quickly discovered an interest meeting that WCLK would be conducting in a few weeks, and I made sure to be there. When I met the team that makes up WCLK, I could see the strength of the jazz community in the heart of Atlanta, and I wanted to be a part of that. I was accepted as a volunteer, and have committed every afternoon to offering my support in any way I can.

Since I was introduced to the arts at a young age, I’ve consistently sought out opportunities to be creative and make my mark. Throughout my childhood, I participated in youth productions and school plays, all the way up through high school. It was during this period that I was first introduced to radio. In my sophomore year, I was given the opportunity to have my own radio show. It was called Ebonix, inspired by the term “ebonics,” which combines the words ebony and phonics. [According to Britannica, ebonics is a dialect of American English spoken by African Americans.] As the name suggests, the show highlighted hot topics of the Black community and popular culture. Opportunities like these nurtured my craft, and my mother, who was always supportive of my passion, led me to pursue arts and media in higher education.

When considering colleges, I knew I wanted a school with strong ties to the media industry and the community. I felt like Atlanta was the best choice for me considering its constantly growing entertainment business, which creates endless opportunities here. The Atlanta University Center Consortium, simply known as the AUC, is the nation’s oldest and largest consortium of Black higher education institutions, consisting of four HBCUs: Spelman, Morehouse, Morris Brown, and Clark Atlanta. With the rich culture of Clark Atlanta, and the AUC at large, I knew it was the perfect choice for me, offering a blend of academic excellence, historical significance, and connections to the thriving media landscape.

Now that I’m here, a typical day for me at school consists of waking up and completing my core Mass Media classes. After class, I make my way over to the Communication Arts building where I begin my shift at the station. A portion of my job at WCLK is working under Assistant Station Manager Eugenia Ricks and Office Manager Heather Hawes, collecting and organizing data like volunteer information, guest lists for events, and other assistant duties of the station. I am constantly given new information and learning about the operation of a university public radio station. Furthermore, I regularly engage with visitors, on-air talent, producers, and staff, and respond to any listener and general company inquiries. Once I’ve responded to the messages left for me throughout my shift, I begin to work on my written assignments for the station.

That is the work I do under our Program Director David Linton, creating content for the station such as writing promotional spots for the air, music reviews for the website, and informational radio scripts for seasonal programming like Black History Month and Women’s History Month. I have also been given the opportunity to record my own segments on many occasions with guidance from Mr. Linton, which reminded me of the initial excitement I had back in high school when I was first introduced to radio. Recording in the studio reminds me of the “magic” of radio, being able to connect with your community from one small microphone.

I am deeply appreciative of WCLK and David Linton for the ability and freedom to be creative and true to myself as a developing Black scholar and Black woman at this station. I have been able to watch some of the productions on-air during the evening and become familiar with the studio and the recording board, even helping to record programming and taking calls from listeners live on-air and connecting them with our on-air hosts.

As I reflect on my journey at Clark Atlanta University and my invaluable experiences at 91.9 WCLK, I am filled with gratitude and a sense of purpose. From the moment I stepped onto campus, I knew I had found my home within the vibrant community of Mass Media Arts. Joining WCLK has not only allowed me to hone my skills in radio production and leadership but has also provided me with a platform to amplify voices and stories that matter. I am committed to embracing every opportunity to make a meaningful impact, both behind the scenes and on the airwaves. WCLK has not only been a station, but a family, fostering my growth and empowering me to embrace my identity as I contribute to the rich tapestry of broadcasting. As I look ahead, I am excited to continue this public radio journey through discovery, innovation, and connection, fueled by the passion and purpose that have guided me from the very beginning.